While there has been an increase in the usage of cocaine, heroine, tramadol and other opioids in West Africa, a new report has shown that the majority of people with drug use problems were unemployed.

The West African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use Report (2014 - 2017) was prepared through the collaborative efforts of the Economic Community of West African States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime with the financial support of the European Union.

The report also provides an overview of the quantity of drugs seized, the number of arrests for drug related offences, the extent of drug use reflecting the number of people in treatment, and drug-related policies available in West Africa.

According to the report, cannabis, cocaine, opioids and amphetamine-type substances (ATS) (mainly methamphetamine) were the main drugs seized in West Africa from 2014 through 2017.

Similarly, increasing seizures of cough mixtures containing codeine in some countries in West Africa indicate an uptick in the non-medical use of prescription opioids.

“Although the use of heroin and other opioids including tramadol is relatively less common than the use of cannabis, they are most commonly associated with more harmful consequences of drug use.

“Almost 18 per cent of persons who accessed drug treatment and rehabilitation services in West Africa in the reporting period were aged 10-19 years. 

"Furthermore, majority of people with drug use problems during the period were unemployed,” the report shows.

The report recommends governments and other stakeholders to include drug demand reduction as a major health priority in all ECOWAS member states and in Mauritania while strengthening the health systems for more effective and efficient delivery of health care services. 

Concerted efforts should be made by national governments in the region to prioritise drug demand reduction in keeping with the balanced approach highlighted in the recommendations of the United Nations (UNGASS, 2016).

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